The Red Sox struck gold when they traded Healthcliff Slocum for Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek. In fact, it was probably the best deal ex-GM Dan Duquette made during his tenure.
But all good things must come to an end at some point, and Varitek, who turns 37 this year, is nearing the end of his career. The biggest question mark of the Red Sox's offseason is, "Who's gonna be the backstop in 2009?"
Forget all the Teixeira talk. The Red Sox need to find a future behind the plate at baseball's thinnest position.
Here, we look at the different routes to answer this question.
Re-Sign Jason Varitek
Varitek has earned every bit of love he gets from Red Sox Nation. The captain has been outstanding in his years here, and he gives you everything you want in a catcher. Varitek makes his pitchers better. No one calls a game like he does.
He's a dominating team leader, and a voice that's heard the second he speaks. For his career, he's had a pretty good batting average, some power, and he's been a run-producer.
However, in the here and now, Varitek's hitting is in sharp decline. He was the biggest hole in Boston's line-up last season, almost an automatic out. He still brings his leadership and intangibles. Those qualities alone would outweigh his unproductive bat on an already stacked card.
But Varitek's agent is Scott Boras, and Boras wants a multi-year contract for the 37-year-old signal caller. Bear in mind that catchers normally fall off around 35, so offering him a three-year deal like Boras is looking for is not a smart investment.
Look to the Farm System
The Red Sox have one of the best farm systems in the game today. What they don't have, and very few clubs do, is catching.
The closest catching prospects to the major leagues are George Kotteras and Dusty Brown.
Kotteras is a pretty solid prospect. He can hit, both for power and average. But while he improved this past season, his defense is suspect. He's slow off the throw to second, and I've heard he doesn't call a great game. Kotteras would fill that hole in the lineup card but he won't be making his pitchers any better.
Brown is a great defensive catcher. He's tough, athletic, and calls a good game. He can gun runners out on the basepaths. His bat wouldn't be much of an improvement on Varitek's. Brown only projects as a backup catcher in the majors, so to think he's a viable option for 2009 is out of the question.
Make a Trade
The Texas Rangers have what very few teams in baseball do, plenty of young catching talent. Both Gereld Laird and Jared Saltalamachia are young backstops with huge upside. Also, they're both at the peak of their tradeability right now.
In order to get one of those guys, the Sox would probably have to trade one of their young pitchers. The Rangers always need pitching, and a possible top-of-the-rotation youngster would make them pull the trigger in a heartbeat.
But giving up a Clay Buchholz or a Justin Masterson isn't something you should do unless you have to. Trading one of those guys just for a better hitting catcher isn't exactly a must.
Watch out if the Sox sign Teixeira, though. That would make Lowell expendable and if you can package him into a deal, you won't be giving up a possible ace.
Sign a Veteran Stopgap
Ivan Rodriguez is out there. But if your going to fill that hole with another late 30s catcher, why would it be anybody but Varitek?
Don't expect them to sign a veteran signal caller. But if they can't strike a deal with Varitek or Texas, it wouldn't be a surprise to see them sign a guy like Rodriguez to buy time for a different solution.
They need to re-sign Varitek, but it would have to be something like a two-year deal with a third year team option. For everything Jason brings to the table, a less productive bat in an already stacked lineup is an even trade-off. The thinness of the catching market makes the need to keep the captain more prominent.
Signing Varitek also buys time for Theo and the gang to produce another long-term solution, whether that be Kotteras, Brown, or somebody different.
Tell me your thoughts? What sets the team up best in both the short term and long term?